Like a phoenix rising from its ashes, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra intends to bounce back from a 2016-17 concert season that was reduced by half by a musicians’ strike with a 2017-18 season that brings patrons back to Bass Hall for classical music.
To that end, the new season offers some big names (such as violinist Itzhak Perlman), some concerts that were lost to the strike (including a performance by trumpeter Chris Botti), some tried-and-true programming choices (four concerts featuring guest pianists) and, a bit surprisingly, film screenings (including “Amadeus” and “It’s a Wonderful Life”).
Additionally, the orchestra welcomes a new artistic partner for 2017-18, violinist Augustin Hadelich. Born in Italy to German parents in 1984, Hadelich is both an outstanding performer and a symbol of artistic perseverance. In his mid-teens, he was badly burned in a fire on his family’s farm. He overcame those injuries to build a fabulous career, which has included some scintillating performances with the FWSO. He is the soloist for the season’s opening concert weekend, Sept. 8-10, performing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. And he returns to take part in a very special program April 6-7 that also features dancers from Texas Ballet Theater and a performance of a new work by Jimmy Lopez, “Bel Canto: A Symphonic Canvas,” which was co-commissioned by the FWSO. Hadelich is also among the performers when that program is repeated April 10 at the 2018 SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras event at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The FWSO is one of only four orchestras selected to take part in the festival, which features performances, symposia and educational and community events by the participating ensembles.
“It is very important to be recognized on that level,” FWSO Music Director Miguel Harth-Bedoya says about the SHIFT festival.
In addition to the usual concerts and soloists, movies are a significant part of the 2017-18 FWSO season. A free outdoor screening of the beloved 1984 Mozart bio pic, “Amadeus,” kicks off the Classical Masters Festival on Aug. 25 in Sundance Square.
“We thought it would be a good way to start off the festival with something a little different,” says Harth-Bedoya.
The orchestra is not part of that event, but the players will accompany screenings of the holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” (Dec. 1) and excerpts from Walt Disney’s “Fantasia” and “Fantasia 2000” (March 9-11). And music from the movies is the focus of “Hollywood Hits,” a concert in the Pops Series (Nov. 3-5) featuring vocalist Kelly Levesque.
So with all those choices, how do you choose the concerts or events you must see? The following is a breakdown of the four series offered by the FWSO, which identifies some of the expected highlights of the coming season.
Classical Masters Festival
This three-concert event, which comprises two concerts and a film this season, serves as an appetizer for the main course of the symphonic, or “subscription,” season. This is the third and final festival devoted to three particular masters of classical music’s Classical Era: Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.
Of special interest this season is the concert featuring pianist Adam Golka, a locally trained musician who has performed frequently with the FWSO, performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 27 (his final piano concerto) on Aug. 27.
“He is an unofficial partner of the orchestra. He is one of the family,” says Harth-Bedoya.
The Symphonic Series
The previously mentioned concerts featuring Hadelich are among the most anticipated performances in the 2017-18, but there are plenty of others to tempt you.
On Feb. 2-4, the FWSO presents a program that features one of the war horses of classical music, Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” But this performance might sound a bit fresh to experienced ears. Instead of defaulting to Maurice Ravel’s orchestration of this work Mussorgsky composed for solo piano, it uses a version done by 20th century Russian composer Sergei Gorchakov.
“It is much more of a Russian take on a Russian piece,” says Harth-Bedoya, who also hopes to record this version for a CD release.
Keyboard fans (which are not hard to find in Fort Worth) will be pleased to hear that pianist Joaquin Achucarro returns on Jan. 12-14, for a Spanish-themed concert that includes works by Falla, Albeniz and Granados and Debussy’s “Iberia.”
And, for contemporary classical music lovers, visiting composer Mason Bates will be on hand for a performance of his “Anthology of Fantastic Zoology,” which originally had been scheduled for last season.
“He is one of the most sought-after composers in America today,” says Harth-Bedoya about Bates, who has served as a composer-in-residence with the FWSO.
These concerts with a lighter touch offer a nice range of styles and themes again this season. The aforementioned “Disney FANTASIA: Live in Concert” (March 9-11) promises to be one of the highlights of the pops season.
But another hot ticket is likely to be the performance by eclectic music and vocal ensemble Pink Martini (April 13-15). The Portland-based group has a loyal fan base, and its performances here have always been well received.
Finally, the annual “Home for the Holidays” concert, which ushers in the Christmas season on Nov. 24-26, might be especially well-attended this year; it was one of the concerts lost to last season’s strike. Harth-Bedoya is on the podium, which is not always the case for this concert, and several music groups from local high schools are part of the festivities.
Some big names are slated for special concerts this season. Legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman will be the featured artist in an evening of music by film composer John Williams on Feb. 10. Given Perlman’s well-deserved reputation, this is bound to be an exceptional concert. But be aware that, because it is the FWSO’s gala — a special concert designed to swell the company’s coffers — it will be pricey.
Also anxiously awaited is the concert by trumpeter Chris Botti, who joins the symphony on Sept. 23 for what is likely to be a night filled with cool, jazz stylings.
Punch Shaw is a frequent contributor to the arts pages of the Star-Telegram and Indulge.
The Classical Masters Festival
Aug. 25: Free screening of “Amadeus” in Sundance Square. (FWSO not performing.)
Aug. 26: Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor; Jake Fridkis, flute; Maria Luisa Rayán, harp Haydn: Symphony No. 104, “London”; Mozart: Concerto for Flute and Harp; Beethoven’s “Wellington’s Victory.”
Aug. 27: Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor; Adam Golka, piano.
Haydn: “Toy Symphony”; Mozart: Concerto for Piano No. 27; Beethoven: Symphony No. 4.
2017-2018 Symphonic Series
Sept. 8-10: Miguel Harth-Bedoya conductor; Augustin Hadelich, violin.
Elgar: “Pomp and Circumstance,” March No. 1 in D major; Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto; Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 3.
Oct. 6-8: Teddy Abrams, conductor/pianist.
Michael Tilson-Thomas: “Agnegram”; Ravel: Piano Concerto in G major; Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5.
Oct. 27-29: Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor.
Selections from Grieg: “Peer Gynt”; Richard Strauss: “Ein Heldenleben.”
Nov. 10-12: Nicholas Carter, conductor; Behzod Abduraimov, piano.
Vaughan Williams: “Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis”; Shostakovich: Piano Concerto No. 1; Elgar: “Enigma Variations.”
Jan. 12-14: Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor; Joaquín Achúcarro, piano.
Falla: Nights in the Gardens of Spain; Albenez: “Rapsodia Española”; Granados: Intermezzo from “Goyescas”; Debussy: “Ibéria” from “Images.”
Feb. 2-4: Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor; Raphaela Gromes, cello.
Schubert: Overture to “Alfonso and Estrella”; Schumann: Cello Concerto; Mussorgsky: “Pictures at an Exhibition.”
Feb. 23-25: Andrew Gourlay, conductor; William Hagen, violin.
Brahms: Violin Concerto; Rachmaninoff: “The Isle of the Dead”; Stravinsky: Suite from “The Firebird” (1919 revision).
March 16-18: Ward Stare, conductor; Paul Appleby, tenor; Molly Norcross, horn.
Arnold: Four Scottish Dances, Op. 59; Britten: “Serenade” for Tenor, Horn, and Strings; Beethoven: Symphony No. 7.
April 6-7: Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor; Augustin Hadelich, violin; Texas Ballet Theater; Anna Clyne, visiting composer; Jimmy López, visiting composer; Kitty McNamee, choreographer.
Anna Clyne: “RIFT: A Symphonic Ballet”; Bernstein: “Serenade”; Jimmy Lopez: “Bel Canto: A Symphonic Canvas” (FWSO co-commission).
May 18-20: Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor; Mason Bates, visiting composer.
Bates: “Anthology of Fantastic Zoology”; Rimsky-Korsakov: “Scheherazade.”
Special Concerts and Gala
Sept. 23: Trumpeter Chris Botti with the FWSO.
Nov. 30: Handel’s “Messiah,” featuring the Southwestern Seminary Master Chorale.
Dec. 1: The FWSO performs a live soundtrack for a screening of the 1946 classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Dec. 31: “New Year’s Eve: A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald,” with vocalist Carmen Bradford.
Jan. 18: Boyz II Men.
Feb. 10: “A Gala Evening with Itzhak Perlman.”
Sept. 1-3: “Cirque de la Symphony,” Stuart Chafetz, conductor.
Oct. 13-15: “I Love a Piano!” Tony DeSare, piano and vocals.
Nov. 3-5: “Hollywood Hits,” Brian Byrne, conductor; Kelly Levesque, vocalist.
Nov. 24-26: “Home for the Holidays,” Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor; Arlington High School Chamber Singers; Lone Star Youth Chorus of Fort Worth; Paschal High School Panther Chorale; Summit High School Jaguar Chorale.
Jan. 26-28: “Let’s Dance!” William Waldrop, conductor
Dancers: Ted Louis Levy, Eva Lucero, Chandrea Roettig, Stephen Sayer, Melissa Shahin, Patricio Touceda and Forrest Walsh. Vocalists: Julie Jo Hughes and Michael Lynche.
March 9-11: “Disney FANTASIA: Live in Concert,” Ted Sperling, conductor.
April 13-15: Pink Martini with members of the FWSO string section.
All performances are at Bass Hall, unless otherwise noted.
—Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Bass Hall, 817-665-6000; www.fwsymphony.org